He’s a student and pastry chef, all rolled into one
Story by Karen Fernau
Photos by Darryl Webb
GCU News Bureau
When Jabari Corbin graduates in April from Grand Canyon University, the hospitality management student will be ambidextrous.
Professionally speaking, that is.
The Barbados native will be qualified to work in both sides of the restaurant industry, from the kitchen and dining room to the corporate office.
What gives him this double edge? Corbin is both conscientious student and pastry chef for Canyon 49 Grill at Grand Canyon University Hotel.
“My goal is to learn as much as I can about all sides of the business. I want to know as much about the business as I do about the cooking and baking,” he said.
Corbin’s ambidexterity is unusual in an industry that typically pigeonholes staff to what is called the back or front of the house, either working as chefs or managers. Few have the credentials to caramelize onions, train the wait staff and draft an operations budget.
“He’s the full package,” said Brett Cortright, general manager of GCU’s newest restaurant.
Corbin took his first step toward ambidexterity in 2009. He graduated from the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Scottsdale and began working at Christopher’s and Crush Lounge, the highly acclaimed Biltmore restaurant owned by James Beard-award winning chef Christopher Gross.
Corbin quickly worked his way up to sous chef before enrolling in Scottsdale Community College, where he graduated with a double associate’s degree in hotel and restaurant management.
Next stop: a French bakery in north Scottsdale where he mastered pain au chocolat, cream puffs, eclairs and other dessert classics. He also has worked under Kevin Binkley, the James Beard nominated chef who owns Café Bink in Carefree and Bink’s in central Phoenix.
“Most chefs decide whether they want to cook or bake, and I like both. I really don’t want to have to pick one over the other,” said Corbin, who enjoys both the unforgiving discipline of baking and the flexible creativity of cooking.
Corbin did, however, decide he wanted a four-year degree. He was poised to enroll in Northern Arizona University’s hospitality program when he learned of GCU’s program.
He was impressed and decided to remain in Phoenix, a city he moved to originally to join a brother who was here studying computer engineering, and attend GCU.
Factored into his decision was GCU’s student worker program. Corbin could bake and study, working toward a bachelor of science degree while keeping his culinary skills sharp.
Cortright read Corbin’s resume and knew immediately that he was a cut above the typical student worker.
“I was blown away by his experience, so we created a new student worker position for him,” Cortright said.
That position is hotel pastry chef.
In December, Corbin began working at GCU’s golf course restaurant. He recently moved to Canyon 49 Grill.
Thank Corbin for the Grill’s mouth-watering selection of sweet endings. Working in partnership with hotel and restaurant staff, his goal was to create a dessert menu that appeals to a broad swath of diners. He hit the mark with churro bites, shortbread skillets, caramel corn house shakes, triple chocolate brownies, grilled pound cakes and lemon meringue milkshakes.
Corbin remains undecided about exactly what he wants to do after graduation. Until then, he will split his time between studying and baking.
“I’m learning and working at something I love at the same time,” he said. “I’m lucky.”
Contact Karen Fernau at (602) 639-8344 or firstname.lastname@example.org.